I once had little concern for where the products I purchased came from. I’d hear bits of information about how our global economy was somehow connected to poverty and low wages internationally, but like most people, I didn’t really connect on an emotional level; I simply assumed that our economy was functioning ‘as it should’, and there really was no need, or way, to challenge the status quo. Simply put, I just thought every product made meant ‘another job’ for someone in the world who ‘needed it.’
That all changed when I became a business-owner. As my mind shifted from consumer to merchant, I began to research the where and why behind product sourcing. I wanted to do my ‘due diligence’ as a shop owner, and source responsibly – I wanted to sell products that I believed in. After being flooded with information about various global industries, and how they suffer from labor injustices, I experienced a mind-shift that I simply could not reverse.
I learned that factories in developing countries often fall short of moral and safety standards, and employees regularly experience extreme conditions, including “physical assault, verbal abuse, forced overtime, unsanitary conditions, denial of paid maternity leave, and failure to pay wages and bonuses on time or in full.” – The Guardian
I learned that it takes even more extreme conditions for news of workplace abuse to make its way to mainstream media - news such as the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, which killed over 1,100 employees (the same employees whose voices were cast aside when they shared their concern for their lives while working in such conditions). – The New York Times
Even worse, I learned that about the estimated 45 million people held in slavery today, and children (as young as 4 years old) represent approximately 26% of these individuals. Victims work unimaginable amounts of time, and are often threatened, beaten, sexually abused, locked in isolation, starved, and even killed; they rarely attempt to escape out of fear. – International Justice Mission
I quickly realized, if I was to responsibly participate in our economy as a merchant, it was clear that my actions, my pocketbook, my decisions… everything in my life needed to follow what I believe about God’s heart for humanity.
Awareness is Key.
One of our primary purposes as a human race, from the beginning of time, has been God’s call toward good stewardship. Colossians 1:16-17 reminds us that, “by [God] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” God created light, air, plants, animals - and mankind; His desire for us humans, as His image bearers, was and is to have dominion over our world – the kind of dominion that protects those who are defenseless, that brings justice to the oppressed, that takes care of the weak. The kind that restores our world - for His glory.
If good stewardship is our responsibility, we inherently need to be aware of what’s going on in our world; we need to pull back the curtains, and become informed about how the defenseless are (or are not) being cared for, given justice, and being protected.
We have access to resources and information more than any other time in history. The US government produces an annual ‘TIP Report” (Trafficking in Persons Report), which ranks, by country, the extent of a government’s efforts to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking. Though this document’s research is not perfect, the TIP Report, is considered “one of the best means we have to speak up for men, women, and children who lack any effective platform to be heard themselves (Senator John Kerry, 2016).”
It’s also important that we pay close attention to global minimum wages, international labor standards, and the ‘dirty work’ of supply chains who secretly subcontract production to save on costs and timelines.
As we gain awareness of the inter-workings of our global economy, we become more empowered to act.
Take a Stand.
Once we begin to understand our economic brokenness, how do we then stand up for what is right?
The answer is, participate, even if it’s through one purchase at a time.
Interestingly, the Greek words for economics and stewardship are both derived from the same word oikonomia, which means “the management, oversight, administration of others’ property.”
In essence, our management of our money and our possessions are directly related to, and intricately connected with the distribution of others’ money and possessions. Each one of us impacts our economy through our spending, and through our selling – we all participate in this global economy. And therefore, we all have power through our money-handling habits.
As believers in the God of the Bible, we are called to use every gift we’ve been given to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s grace (1 Peter 4:10). Everything we own, everything we’ve earned, everything we purchase – each-and-every money exchange we oversee is an opportunity to be good stewards and good managers of what God has given us. We have the honor of participating in our economy by honoring God’s economy – through our ‘oikonomia’, our management of His property.
On a practical level, we can invest in companies whose missions we believe in, whose products we love, and whose employees (and supply chains) we want to support. Companies with certifications, such as B Corporations have a primary goal to meet high social and environmental standards for the good of our world, by meeting legal and ethical requirements.
We can also invest in businesses whose missions, stories, and production values are transparent to the greater community. I have become a big fan of the company Jimani Collections, whose heart for their employees is to thrive and be independent. Through Jimani’s training programs, employees are able to carry a skill set with them through life. These employees are also empowered to take care of their families’ needs through their earned salaries. Beautifully, there is an increasing amount of businesses across the world, like Jimani, whose hearts are to honor all people and our planet, while also being able to sustainably exist alongside their competitors – we need to be cheering them on!
Additionally, on Persimmon's website, we have provided a growing list of our favorite ethical brands; be thoughtful in your spending, and consider how companies like these can fit into your everyday purchases.
Be in Prayer.
Once we become aware of injustices in our world, it’s our responsibility to remain aware – we need to be vitally connected to the happenings in God’s creation, and to be in constant prayer.
As I continue to learn new information, my deepening awareness informs my prayer response, and helps me pray for people across our globe more specifically – people such as the boys who were recently rescued from being enslaved in a shoe factory in India, and the families who were trafficked from their homes to work, without wages, in cocoa farms in Africa.
I believe that prayer is the most powerful tool to fight injustices, as it demonstrates a trust that God is in control, is all-powerful, and does not allow evil to prevail. In Exodus 14:14, the Israelites, a people formerly enslaved, were handed a promise, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” We can trust this same promise today, since we serve a God who is unchanging, and is the only One who administers perfect justice and mercy over mankind.
I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. –Ecclesiastes 3:17
My faith and heart’s cry for God’s redemption began to grow more deeply as I dove into business ownership; perhaps it was His way to reveal to me His heart for suffering people throughout the world, and it was through understanding how I can play a vital role in our global economy that He called me to action.
And so now, I leave you with the same question… How is God calling you to stand, on behalf of the billions of suffering people in our world, whom He loves so dearly?
All creation anticipates the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time" -Romans 8:18-23
KACIE FEENEY is the founder of Persimmon Prints and lives in the Chicago area with her husband. They have two malti-poo pups, Lucy & Rosey, and are expecting their first baby in April. You can connect with her & Persimmon on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Photography Credit: Alice Lee Photo